Tag Archives: Axosoft

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Now is the time to invest in Arizona

It used to be when I traveled to different business meetings across the country, people would ask me about Arizona’s politics. While we still have reputation issues to repair, the questions I’ve been getting recently are more focused on the buzz they’re hearing about our growing technology sector.

There’s good reason Arizona is getting noticed for its growth. Over the last five years, Arizona has developed one of the most robust technology entrepreneurial ecosystems in the country. The state is home to five of Deloitte’s 2013 “Technology Fast 500” firms, specifically First Solar, LifeLock, Telesphere, Inilex and GPS Insight. Other startups that have been home grown in Arizona into industry leaders include Axosoft, GoDaddy, iCrossing, Infusionsoft, Insight Enterprises, LimeLight Networks and WebPT.

We were able to accomplish our strong entrepreneurial spirit in part by drawing the attention of the media and the state’s policy makers to the need to diversify our economy away from construction and climate into a knowledge-based economy with higher paying jobs. Our efforts resulted in a tax credit for qualified research and development that is the best in the nation and a successful angel investment tax credit.

A lot of other resources have been invested. Over a dozen business incubators and accelerators call Arizona home, providing resources to support technology entrepreneurs. In addition to graduating a vibrant workforce to fuel quality jobs, Arizona’s world-renowned universities and community colleges are also heavily engaged.

Arizona State University (ASU) runs the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and the ASU SkySong Innovation Center was recently awarded one of the best organizations of its kind in the country. University of Arizona (UA) is helping create the technology of tomorrow in its Bridges/UA Bio Park and UA Tech Park that includes a Solar Zone. UA also participates in Startup Tucson – an organization dedicated to growing a vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurship through educational events. Northern Arizona University fosters business growth through it Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and benefits from its affiliation with NASA. All of that bodes well for Arizona’s innovation economy.

Other efforts are focused solely on exciting people about technology and science. We just celebrated the third annual statewide Arizona SciTech Festival with over 300K people attending more than 500 events this year.

And although we have a long way to go, there’s a growing pool of capital. We’re home to two of the largest and top rated angel investor networks in the U.S. ─ ATIF and Desert Angels. The Arizona Commence Authority has created the Arizona Innovation Challenge that awards the most money in the country to the most promising entrepreneurs meeting technology challenges. Grayhawk Capital just raised $70 million in funds for early and growth stage technology investments. And Tallwave Capital recently announced it has deployed $500,000 in capital in early-stage ventures.

The 2010 census reports Arizona’s population at 6.4 million, with a median age of 35.9 years. The predicted growth rates for Arizona by the federal and state government expect that between 1.5 million and 3 million people will move to Arizona by the year 2020. That type of robust regional population growth combined with an improved U.S. economy translates into high potential for investors.

It’s true we enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine each year. But we offer a lot more than golf and spas. Venture capital sitting on the sidelines should put money into promising Arizona high tech firms and startup ventures.

Now is the time to invest in Arizona.

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It takes fuel to win tech race

Many of us can relate to thinking of Arizona’s economy as an automobile race. To win, you need a smooth race course, a fast car, a winning driver and high-powered fuel.
Carrying that analogy into Arizona’s technology sector, it’s clear that a lot of resources have been invested and progress has been made in building a world-class race course.  We’ve made tremendous strides in creating a business climate and technology environment for facilitating both private and public sector support to address the needs of Arizona’s technology businesses.

The Arizona Technology Council has worked collaboratively with many different technology champions to build this course. Technology issues are supported by the Governor’s office, the state’s legislature, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and more.

Technology incubators and shared space facilities such as Gangplank in Chandler, Avondale and Tucson; Hackspace and Venture Catalyst at ASU’s SkySong in Scottsdale; BioInspire in Peoria; Innovation Incubator in Chandler; AzCI in Tucson; and AZ Disruptors in Scottsdale are making sure that today’s innovators are being given the right support, tools and environment to create the next big thing.

Collectively, our wins have included the passage of a tax credit for qualified research and development that is the best in the nation, the creation of the first statewide Arizona SciTech Festival and the birth of the Arizona Innovation Institute, to name a few.
Arizona’s technology industry also has great race cars. These are the technologies and intellectual property that create wealth and jobs driven by both Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs.  Companies such as Intel, Microchip Technologies, Freescale, ON Semiconductor and Avnet can all be found here.  Nearly all of the largest aerospace and defense prime contractors in the nation are located in Arizona, including Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.

The state’s entrepreneurial spirit is reflected in companies such as WebPT, Infusionsoft, Axosoft, iLinc and Go Daddy that were founded in Arizona along with the many innovators that are coming to the table every day with new ideas rich in technology.

These companies large and small are driven by some of the greatest race car drivers the nation has produced.

But when it comes to fuel, Arizona’s economy has always been running close to empty. We lack the vital capital needed to win the race. Having access to angel investors, venture capital and private equity as well as debt instruments is critical to Arizona’s success.
The situation has not been improving on the equity side of the fuel equation. To offer some relief, the Arizona Technology Council is proposing legislation that would create a system of contingent tax credits to incentivize both in-state and out-of-state investors to capitalize Arizona companies.  This program, called the Arizona Fund of Funds, would allow the state to offer $100 million in tax incentives to minimize the risk for those seeking to invest in high-growth companies.  The state government’s role would be to serve as a guarantor through these contingent tax credits in case the investments don’t yield the projected results.  Expect more information on this important piece of legislation as it advances.

On the debt side of the fuel equation, there are encouraging signs that the worst of the credit crunch may be over. Early-stage companies need access to debt instruments, or loans. Capital is needed for equipment and expansion. A line of credit can help early-stage companies through ongoing cash-flow issues. But loan activity is still modest in Arizona for small companies. It remains heavily weighted toward the strongest corporate and consumer borrowers.

Capital goes hand in hand with innovation, high-paying jobs and cutting-edge technology, products and services. Before Arizona’s economy can win the race, we will need to become more self-sufficient at providing the fuel necessary to be a winner.

Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.